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Four Roses 10 Recipe March Madness Bracket Reviews - The Beginning of the "Sandalwood Scandal"

We've got all 10 recipes lined up here for a really fun tasting! Alan Starr put these together and the bottle labels are really something special! He took the time to transfer all the original bottle details to these 2oz jars. Now even from the get go there's some caveats to this tasting - this is only one expression of each recipe... now there may be better or worse barrels of each recipe out there too so this is just my first opportunity to really explore differences in the recipes. I will be revisiting bottles and other samples of these for a long time because Four Roses just makes damn good bourbon in general. But I thought this would be fun to explore, so here we are!

I am going to be tasting all of these blind thanks to my lovely significant other, Brittany. I will be working on a standard head-to-head random matchup bracket for this.

If you want to see what each letter corresponds to... Brittany has provided an answer key here that I will refrain from clicking! Notice it is hosted on Imgur not on my website so I don't accidentally stumble upon it!

Before you read on! Please let me preface this bracket by saying what I am tasting here is one example of the brand that was curated by someone other than myself. I had no control over the outcome of what I experienced tonight and my opinions expressed here likely do not directly correlate to my opinions of Four Roses in general. Now... read on if you are into train wrecks! If you want the TL;DR, I have bolded the suspicious notes that highlight what will later become the "Sandalwood Scandal" experiment.


Company on Label: Four Roses

Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Mash Bill Percentages: See table below

Proof: Varies by barrel - see the answer key for barrel details

Age: Varies by barrel - see the answer key for barrel details

Further identification: These are all store pick single barrel selects

Four Roses 10 Recipes


Round 1: A vs B!

Glass A Nose:

  • Sweet, strawberry

  • Touch of ethanol

  • Vanilla forward

  • Maple sugar

  • Oily nose-feel

  • Coffee bean and confectioners sugar; yum

Glass A Palate:

  • Huh.. tastes a lot like B at the start

  • Deep sandalwood funk

  • Over-oaked

  • Perfume floral


Glass B Nose:

  • Linen

  • Floral

  • Smells like camping; citronella candle

  • In the same vein a bit waxy on the nose-feel

  • Rubbing some spilled whiskey on my hands gives off rich milk chocolate

  • Lighter than A

Glass B Palate:

  • Eugh; musty spice all over this

  • Tastes like old carpets smell

  • Dusty

  • Slightly synthetic

  • I'm deeply confused about what I'm tasting


Ranking: A > B

Fern knew I wasn't going to miss B and bumped the table and spilled half the glass on me. Good thing it didn't advance! I was deeply confused by both of these that tasted very similar.


Round 2: C vs D!

Glass C Nose:

  • Sweet and creamy

  • Candy forward

  • Lovely softness to the nose feel with an abundance of aroma behind it

  • Lovely bright florals

  • Airy vanilla bean

  • Light butterscotch

Glass C Palate:

  • Mmm, yup a lot of that vanilla sweetness up front

  • Soft cherry syrup follows

  • Nerds candy

  • Great profile but linger is quite soft and fairly short

  • Another sip builds in molasses and shortbread cookie

  • Sugary sweets much like the nose

  • Delicious, delicious, delicious and the clear winner here


Glass D Nose:

  • Caramel forward nose

  • Heavier bakery scents

  • Lighter but more dessert savory overall

  • Great nose

Glass D Palate:

  • Oak forward with distinct spice

  • Slight touch of sandalwood like A and B had but less intense

  • A bit dry

  • Tastes like someone tipped the baking spice rack over and everything jumbled together

  • Longer linger of earthy, musky exotic spices


Ranking: C>D

There's a clear winner on C on this matchup! The only one to not have any of the funky sandalwood note I've found on everything thus far.


Round 3: F vs G !

Glass F Nose:

  • Youthful, floral

  • Light citrus

  • Minerality on the nose-feel

  • Chalky, drying

Glass F Palate:

  • Sandalwood again...

  • Funky molasses

  • Eugh, heavy on that incense feel; maybe it has a touch of Nag Champa incense alongside the sandalwood

  • More offensive than G


Glass G Nose:

  • Rich fruit sweetness

  • Level oak and airy vanilla

  • Slight nuttiness; almonds come to mind

  • Molasses, funk

  • Oily marshmallow sweetness

  • Citrus tobacco like some shishas I experienced back in the day

Glass G Palate:

  • Yummy cherry

  • Aaaand then more fucking sandalwood

  • Less so spicy and some nice chocolate shows up on the back end


Ranking: G>F

Am I going crazy with this sandalwood note? I am really not digging it. It's possible that this is a particularly curated list that leans towards some of the worst single barrels out there, or some kind of environmental storage issue, because there are a lot of these single barrels that are tasting very similar so far. I confirmed and trust that Alan did everything properly with his storage techniques and do believe the latter is the case - as I have had samples from other people who also go through meticulous cleaning techniques that have also been affected by this "sandalwood infection".


Round 4: I vs J!

Glass I Nose:

  • Woah, highest feeling proof thus far

  • Plum

  • Softer than J in aroma intensity

  • Creamy vanilla

Glass I Palate:

  • Yuck - the most intense sandalwood flavor so far

  • Working past it.. I can't

  • There might be some fruity sweetness in the back but this one is almost making me gag

  • Incredibly dry, chalky mouth feel

  • The only glass I didn't want to finish (drain pour)


Glass J Nose:

  • Woah, savory red pasta sauce

  • Slight bit of anise like a sausage-based meat sauce

  • Definitive herbal characteristics to this nose

  • Bright and also proofy feeling

Glass J Palate:

  • Softer sandalwood

  • Caramel drizzle

  • More typical bourbon profile

  • Nice cherry flashes up before more sandalwood smacks me in the tongue


Ranking: J>I

The lesser of two evils.


Round 5: A vs E

Glass A Nose:

  • Rich, tannic sweetness

  • Malt forward

  • Cinnamon pancakes

  • Maple syrup

  • Still definitely a lovely nose experience

Glass A Palate:

  • Creamy caramel forward

  • Ooh citrus zesty but definitely still tinged with the sandalwood infection

  • Definitely feels the hottest proof of them all so far

  • Maraschino cherry


Glass E Nose:

  • Woah - spot on cherry Kool Aid

  • Bits of weathered metal atop solid oak; much like the whole experience of a barrel sitting in front of you

  • Slight effervescence

  • Light nerds candy

Glass E Palate:

  • My first sip started sweet and cherry forward but then the sandalwood kicked in again

  • 3rd closest to the lightest sandalwood influence

  • Plum and black pepper blend well

  • Yummy ignoring the weird sandalwood influence

  • Creamy caramel linger is such a nice reprieve


Ranking: A>E

This one was surprisingly close! A had some real sweetness I could get behind.


Round 6: C vs H!

Glass C Nose:

  • Tannic red berry medley

  • Funky oak

  • Black pepper

  • Raisin sweetness

Glass C Palate:

  • Lovely cherry juice on first sip

  • Soft pear sweetness

  • Slightly starchy

  • Delicious punchy vanilla

  • Yum, yum, yum, yum!

  • Slight floral zest with a sweet grapefruit backbone

  • Lovely all the way through


Glass H Nose:

  • Sweet angel food cake

  • Vanilla frosting

  • Marbled rye bread

  • Creamy butterscotch

  • This just came around strongly towards something I can really enjoy on the nose

Glass H Palate:

  • Yuck; sandalwood is back on this one; I cringe horrifically as I re-experience it

  • Yeah, I'm out; I can't keep tasting this flavor - C moves on and H goes down the drain!


Ranking: C>H

I am growing every more wary of this flavor. I've tasted it many times in brief passing on many whiskeys... particularly some American single malts. I believe I tasted it on Amrut where I thought it fit in well. It does not fit in well tonight. C moves on!


Semi-Final Round 7: A vs G!

Glass A Nose:

  • Lighter than previous glasses of A

  • Confectioners sugar

  • Light fried dough

  • Metallic

Glass A Palate:

  • Sandalwood wanted to come into this glass but fell short

  • Peanut nutty

  • Hot, hot, hot!

  • Big cinnamon hots

  • Funky oak

  • Funky spices on the back end put this a bit below G


Glass G Nose:

  • Malty forward

  • Caramel popcorn

  • Savory

  • Black peppercorn

  • Rich molasses

Glass G Palate:

  • Vanilla forward

  • Long linger of marshmallow sweets

  • Hints of bright Spring florals

  • Rather plain

  • Bigger sip and swish shows off a light nuttiness

  • Zero sandalwood this time, which is strange, but lovely

  • Long linger of vague rice crispy sweetness


Ranking: G>A

I think we are finally entering a space free of sandalwood and I am here for it!


Semi-Final Round 8: C vs J!

Glass C Nose:

  • Mmm; it reminds me of a candy shop - so many sweets

  • Delicate but delectable

Glass C Palate:

  • Vanilla explosion

  • Mineral strawberry

  • Cherry, plum - all the red fruit

  • Very berry

  • Lovely mouth feel and a long linger


Glass J Nose:

  • Not even close to the nose on C

  • Slight savory note

  • Iron metallic

  • Awkward spices

Glass J Palate:

  • Drain pour next to C


Ranking: C>J

... by a landslide. C is crushing it by just being normal.


The Finals - Round 9: C vs G!

For the final round I moved away from the wee glens and tasted out of full size glencairn glasses.

Glass C Nose:

  • The nose on C makes me smile

  • Soft chamomile tea

  • Honeysuckle

Glass C Palate:

  • Syrupy sweet fruit parfait!

  • This is king shit; none of the other samples even come close to this one

  • This is such a lovely fruit parfait

  • Honey sweetness greets the palate as well

  • Just. Good. Bourbon!

  • Incredibly long linger of amaretto and perfect stone fruit


Glass G Nose:

  • The nose on G smells like cardboard (a typical note experience on corked whiskies)

  • It smells like a wet concrete basement; (how did this make it this far?)

  • Level oak and a halfway decent late nose remind me of why this whiskey advanced

Glass G Palate:

  • It sips fine if not a little messy

  • Dark, rich tones all through this

  • Musty oak

  • Meh.


Ranking: C>G

Okay.... So I really only liked ONE sample out of the TEN?!


Well this was a crazy disaster. Have you ever experienced this sandalwood note? I'd hate for good brands to be getting earmarked with this flavor profile because of the method of sample sharing that is very commonplace in the whiskey community. I'll be diving in on a deeper investigation...

Reveal (not that this is all that useful at this point):

1 comment

1 Comment

Sep 29, 2022

the war of the roses. Wow. That took some serious time. I love it. The creativity in the mini bottles is fantastic as are all your notes. Great work ! 🥃💪🏼🥃

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